Endodontics is a branch of dentistry, now recognized as a specialty by the General Dental Council, involving the diagnosis and treatment of the internal part of the tooth, called the dental pulp. The most commonly performed procedure in endodontics is a root canal treatment.
When you look at your tooth in the mirror, what you see is the crown. The rest of the tooth, hidden beneath the gum line, is called the root. Though the outer portion of the root is a hard tissue called dentine, the inside channel or "root canal" contains a pulp of soft tissue, blood vessels and nerves. Bacteria that gain access into the pulp as a result of tooth decay, periodontal disease, tooth fracture or other problems, can severely damage the pulp. When this happens, endodontic treatment can be carried out to remove the diseased pulp to save the tooth and prevent further infection and inflammation. After successful endodontic treatment, the tooth continues to perform normally. Usually the alternative to endodontic treatment is extraction of the tooth.
Before and after x-ray pictures showing a root filling in a premolar tooth with curved-roots
Why have I been referred?
The vast majority of endodontic treatment In the UK is carried out by General Dental Practitioners. In certain circumstances, your regular dentist may not feel confident that he or she will be able to carry out the treatment successfully. Common reasons for this are repeating treatment that has not been successful, the complex anatomy of molar (back) teeth, and narrow and curved root canals. Endodontic specialists are qualified dentists who have had extensive further training in treatment of these more difficult problems.
I'm worried about x-rays. Should I be?
No. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontics treatment, we use an advanced non-film computerized system, called digital radiography that produces radiation levels up to 70 percent lower than those of already low-dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. These digital images can be optimized, archived, and sent to your dentist via e-mail or diskette, and hard copies can also be provided. If you would like a copy of your radiographic images, please telephone the practice, or speak to your dentist after treatment has been completed.
For further information on dental x-rays and the possible risks, click here: http://www.nrpb.org/radiation_topics/risks/index.htm
What about the risk of cross- infection?
Again, there's no need for concern. We adhere to the most rigorous standards of infection control advocated by the British Dental Association. We utilize the latest ultrasonic cleaning baths and enzymatic cleaners, and autoclave sterilization and barrier techniques to eliminate any risk of infection.
What happens after treatment?
When your root canal therapy has been completed, a record of your treatment will be sent to the dentist who referred you. You should contact your dentist's practice for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion at our practice. Your own dentist will decide on what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth; frequently root filled teeth need to be crowned in order to protect them from fracture.
It is unusual for endodontic patients to experience complications after routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does occur, however, we are always available.
What new technologies are being used?
In addition to digital radiography, we utilize special operating microscopes. High power magnification and fibre-optic illumination are helpful in aiding the dentist to see tiny details inside your tooth. Also, a small video camera on the operating microscope can record images of your tooth to further document treatment, and a digital stills camera will allow other records to be kept.
Successful endodontic treatment requires careful measurement of the length of the root canals to be made. Measurements are made directly from digital radiographic images and also by using an electronic measurement device called an apex locator. This instrument is a highly sophisticated device that helps improve the accuracy of treatment, and often allows measurement of the length of the root canal to within 0.5mm.
Our surgeries are equipped with sophisticated ultrasonic units that are used to remove posts and metal instruments, as well as aid in the search for small, calcified canals. These units are also used to prepare the root-end for a retrograde filling in cases when microsurgical intervention is required. The diamond coated microscopic tips vibrate at a frequency above the audible range of perception (18,000 to 40,000 cycles per second) to ensure accurate and speedy preparation.